U.N. climate chief looks to Biden to boost global action

In November in Glasgow, Scotland, the U.N. will stage its most important climate summit since the 2015 event that yielded the Paris Agreement, when nearly 200 countries committed to halt rising global temperatures quickly enough to avoid catastrophic impacts.

The November summit, which was delayed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, serves as a deadline for countries to commit to deeper emissions cuts, to deliver the Paris treaty's aim.

"The US played a very important role in getting the Paris Agreement together. So we certainly are hoping that we will see this kind of leadership coming back," Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, told the Reuters Next conference.

With only 10 months until the summit, President-Elect Joe Biden must reboot that leadership "very fast", Espinosa said.

While President Donald Trump doubts mainstream climate science and pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement, Biden has pledged to re-join the accord on his first day in office and spend $2 trillion on clean energy.

Espinosa also called on wealthy countries to fulfil a 2009 promise to deliver $100 billion each year by 2020, to help developing countries tackle climate change. They missed the goal by $21 billion in 2018, according to the latest tally.

"We're not there," said Espinosa. "After the year where we had this COVID pandemic that prompted the richer economies to mobilise, in a matter of months, $12 trillion for COVID recovery. It just doesn't make sense."

Video Transcript

PATRICIA ESPINOSA: Definitely the US has really a huge responsibility and a huge role to play. Just if you look at the amount of emissions that they are responsible for, that already tells you very clearly that they have a huge responsibility. At the same time, the US has been really instrumental, very key partner in order to get to where we are in our process.

The US played really a very important role in getting the Paris Agreement together. So we certainly are hoping that we will see this kind of leadership coming back. The appointment that President-elect Biden has made of former Secretary of State John Kerry to be his climate envoy, I think already indicates that he's willing to give it a very high political priority. And we certainly welcome that.

Developed countries are being seen by developing countries as not fulfilling their commitments. 10 years ago, and this is very important to remember, 10 years ago, the goal of the $100 billion being mobilized by 2020 every year in order to support efforts by developing countries to address climate change, we are not there.

And in the year where we have-- or after the year where we had this COVID pandemic that prompted the more richer economies to mobilize in a matter of months, $12 trillion for COVID recovery. It just doesn't make sense.